New Project, Alabasq

As announced on my Facebook page about…  Two minutes ago, work on my newest project has begun.

Alabasq: the planet of alwayswinter.  Where convicts and traitors to the empire are sent to die, and where “screamers” and “malamute men” reign supreme.  A warzone for some, and a never-ending hell for the rest.

In truth, I’d begun writing Alabasq in 2015.  This was going to be the next thing I attempted to get for-real-published.  Except for the fact that by 2015, I was really getting sick and tired of all the rejection.  Also, five chapters in, I really wasn’t liking the direction it was taking.

I initially gave up on the project, and left it on my harddrive to rot.  Two years later, I’m waiting sorta-patiently for cover art, waiting for something to do with my free time, and one of those things included looking over old projects to see if any of them could be salvaged.  Alabasq, weirdly enough, was the only one in the incomplete folder I still ended up kind of liking.  How I didn’t delete everything else, I’ll never know, but that one, I kept for sure.

Admittedly, I’m writing the entirety of the story from scratch.  The original version focused on two characters on opposite sides of the conflict.  I feel that, in hindsight, it’s a wiser idea to focus on just one.  One coin toss later, the story is still set on Alabasq.  It’s just that it’s going to STAY on Alabasq, and the perspective of the story is less War is hell, and nobody wins”, and more “we must overcome tyranny by casting aside the endless bickering of tribalism.”

I have no idea when this book will be finished.  Ideally, sometime in 2018, but I can’t guarantee anything.  At this point, I’ve only kept one chapter of the original project, and even THAT might be heavily revised to fit the new direction.

I’m also going to be on the hunt for a lot of documentaries and research material regarding wildlife and surviving in the tundra.  Probably going to find a lot of documentaries arguing that climate change is real, and that the Antarctic is suffering the worst…  And I won’t disagree with you guys on that one, but honestly, that’s not what I’m looking for.  All suggestions are welcome.  Leave them in the comment box if you have any.

Till then, I’ll keep you posted on what the progress is like over on my Facebook page as always.  I look forward to seeing where this adventure takes us all.

 

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The Hood and the Heroine is Now Available!

 

THATH

 

Roisin O’Malley, better known as Gael, has been released from prison, and joins the army of copycat vigilantes she unintentionally inspired.  Meanwhile, the killer known simply as The Blue Hood continues his killing spree across Sapphire City, leaving an ever growing mountain of dead criminals in his wake.  Dan Adelson: the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has joined forces with a cult of assassins known simply as The Diamond Club.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, CharKendrick Parks: the serial killer better known throughout Sapphire City and YouTube alike as The Subway Spook, has resumed his murder spree throughout the subways of Sapphire City.  With so many high-profile threats to the city, Gael and The Blue Hood find themselves with quite a bit of common ground, and try their best to build an alliance despite their wildly different outlooks on the true definition of justice.

This is the third, and until further notice, the final chapter of The Gael Saga.  The possibility of sequels aren’t outside the realm of possibility, but without giving too much away, this is DEFINITELY the last book that’ll feature Roisin O’Malley in any way shape or form.

I have had ideas for a possible book 4, and from there, who knows?  Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas I have for book 4 are, at best, scribbles.  I haven’t ruled out the possibility of doing a book 4 further down the line, but for now, everything has been wrapped up in a nice little bundle of completion.  I’m done, I’m done, I’m fucking done!

Not going to lie, this book was an ordeal.  Not an UNPLEASANT ordeal, but this one was the hardest one to write.  Book 1 just oozed out of my head and onto the proverbial paper.  Book 2 was pretty similar in that regard.  Book 3…  Was a lot more complicated.

There were minor inconveniences along the way, like my cover artist unfortunately not being able to meet the deadline I set due to real life and other things happening on their side of the state, and my usual horrible tendency to get distracted by anything shiny.  However, the biggest complication of all was probably actually making it to the finish line.

The Gael Saga is literally the first time in forever that I’ve seen something through from start to finish.  I have several book 1s of this series or that series on my harddrive, but Those books were originally for the for-real publishers.  After months of trying to sell these things to literary agents and publishers alike, I shrugged, said “fuck it”, and went to KDP, but rather than publish all those stories to KDP, I just moved on to the next project.

The Jad Blade Legacy is the first series I’ve written for that’s seen a book 2, and even that one is currently up in limbo due to my parting with Outskirts Press.  I started writing book 3 in 2013, and while I made some degree of progress, I never did get finished with it.

The Gael Saga started in 2016, and ended as of…  Well technically two days ago, but but yeah, it’s officially finished.  End of an era, man.  I’m not sure how to feel about it.  There’s that sense of accomplishment, sure, but there’s a lot of other thoughts in my head as well.  Specifically, where the fuck do I go from here?

All questions will be answered when I get around to it.  In the meantime, enjoy the final chapter of The Gael Saga!

You can get your copy here.

 

So Yeah… No Gael Novel.

So…  Yeah…  Unfortunately, there are some last minute complications.  I alluded to them very briefly on my Facebook, and I don’t plan on going any further into depth than that, but for those who don’t get their Thomas J. Black fix on Facebook…  Yeah, there have been some problems.

For starters, the cover art.  It’s not here yet.  I, nor my artist, anticipated real life getting in the way of things.

Secondly, I’m having…  Words, with KDP currently.

The story has less to do with anything going on with book 3, and more to do with attempting to make repairs to book 2.  A reader on Reader’s Favorite let me know of some minor spelling errors I didn’t catch.  I also wanted to fix a very minor continuity error, and I wanted to switch the interior from color to black and white.  Having a color interior so that the title page can have one word written in orange seems kind of stupid in hindsight.  Plus, it’s already like that on the cover.  Also, I have to sell the book for a minimum price in order to cover printing costs, and when you publish a book with a color interior, that minimum price goes WAY up.  Call me crazy, but $22 for a 170 page book sounds ridiculous.

Furthermore, after uploading the revised manuscript to KDP, I noticed the minimum price actually went from $20 to fucking $30.75!  Now that’s definitely not worth charging for a 170 page book in my opinion.

I’m currently in talks with KDP on how to fix this dilemma, and…  In all honesty, KDP seems stumped.  They gave me an idea or two to try, but there’s no guarantee it’ll work.  Also, They insisted my conversation with them was going to get sent up to corporate.  Apparently, wanting to switch your interior from color to black-and-white, and vise versa, is a possibility the board of directors didn’t anticipate.  Leave it to the blind guy to stumble across something nobody ever thought of, right?  It’s iPhone1 all fucking over again.

So yeah.  complications with all things Gael have made it impossible for me to put up The Hood and the Heroine on time.  Believe me, I cannot apologize enough for the inconvenience.  I do hope to get this all fixed before October.

For the foreseeable future, though, I’m thinking of putting up an ad for a new cover artist.  My current artist does great work, and I’d totally recommend him for a gig if you’re looking for somebody, but from what he’s told me, things are getting a bit hectic on his end of the net, and I may want to consider other options in the future as a result.  Life happens.  I get it.

I can’t guarantee when the book will be out for sure.  I do hope to have it up by October, and if I have to upload a coverless version, then so be it.

Stay tuned to this blog for further news regarding this matter.  I’ll try to keep you posted if any developments occur.

A Taste of Things to Come: The Hood and The Heroine Sample Chapter!

With the release of The Hood and the Heroine mere weeks away, I figured I would further tease the shit out of my audience, and give you guys a bit of a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy your sample chapter.  Fragment.  Thing.

NOTE: this is the third draft version of the chapter.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors in the text, please keep in mind that this is still being worked on.  Although knowing my process, the third draft is where all the blatantly obvious spelling errors are fixed.  Still, try to keep in mind this might not be the final version of the chapter.

 

 

THE HOOD AND THE HEROINE: BOOK 3 OF THE GAEL SAGA

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

5: ROISIN

Our first mission was that night. I was legitimately surprised how quickly I was able to assemble a group. I thought for sure there were only going to be about two other people. Instead, I ended up with ten people who wanted to take part! Technically nine other people, since it was a guarantee Jennifer was going to come along.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve given them something a little lower profile than an arms deal on the docks. Sure, these were girls who were taking down muggers, and maybe the occasional independent crack dealer in Aventurine Cove. And I suppose even those gigs had all the potential in the world to go south. According to Jennifer, a few of them did.

It was the first time I had to lead an entire team. I wasn’t used to leading anything. I was on teams before, but the only reason gymnasts are on teams is because they represent a school, or a town, or a country. The only time it’s actually a team sport is if you have some sort of two-woman synchronized routine or something. And I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is reserved for swimming, or cheerleading. It’s basically just you throwing shapes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, or even just on the floor.

We got there before the deal took place, and I pointed out the places I used to hide when this was just a solo act. Before Adelson started making this more complicated, and had people meet with other people, who’d then meet with more people, and so on. We hid, and we cast our glamours to blend in with the scenery.

The dealer and his clients showed up a few minutes later. We watched as the dealer (a Russian guy) talked business with a group of men. I counted about five. We had the numbers advantage for sure… But I was having doubts ten girls on their first mission could beat six guys who’d probably done this a bunch of times before, and knew how to deal with trespassers.

The plan was going smoothly… Right up until Jennifer’s phone went off. It was set on vibrate, but even vibrating cell phones make noise. And the sound of the vibrating was enough to shatter her glamour. Worse than that, the damn eejit thought she could sneak up on the guy, and… Well, who knows? Guess we never will now.

Somehow, she avoided becoming a casualty. Hell, the worst she got was a black eye! We all dispelled our glamours, and went into action. I don’t like to throw shapes outside of gymnastics, but at the same time, this wasn’t my first fight. I knew how to dodge, I knew how to disarm, and I knew how to work in an occasional vault, or side flip in between. The other girls, meanwhile, stuck to weaving and dodging the old fashioned way, and for the most part, it worked.

At the end of the melee, all six of the men involved were disarmed, and secured for police pickup. Unfortunately, three of the Gaels were injured. I was no doctor, but I was pretty sure one of them was going to need a miracle, or a day and a half with the Earth to recover from those bullet wounds. All and all, it wasn’t quite how I wanted to end the first mission of the night, but I suppose someone more military minded than I would say the important thing is that the mission was a success.

And then he showed up. Right in the middle of our interrogation, I heard something. A couple of the girls panicked… And I can’t blame them too much. Again, it’s their first mission. Also, my plans for the mission hadn’t counted on him showing up.

I looked over, and saw one of the six men we’ve apprehended was now dead. A ninja star was lodged into his throat, and blood was fountaining out of him as he lay there on the ground.

Just as I was calming the girls down, I saw another ninja star come out of the shadows! I dodged… Only to realize the star wasn’t intended for me in the first place. The dealer I was interrogating got hit right between the eyes, and fell to the ground screaming in agony.

“Show yourself!” I shouted.

“Get out while you can!” a voice shouted back. It was clear he was using some sort of voice changer to hide his identity, but it was a little unsettling how deep he’d set it. It sounded like feckin’ Satan had just told me to get out.

To my annoyance, a few of the girls decided to take his advice, and bail. Before I could convince them to get back here, another ninja star came out of the shadows, and killed another of the dealers. Then another. And another. By the time I could get some semblance of order, only one guy was left standing. Before he could throw one more star, I got in front of the last target.

“This one lives!” I shouted.

“Why?” the demon voice demanded.

I thought it over for a second, and replied, “This is clearly an Adelson operation. If we can’t figure out where Adelson is hiding, he can at least forward a message for me.”

There was silence for a moment. Most likely, he was contemplating a possibility that hadn’t occurred to him. Then, he responded.

“You won’t get anything out of these guys,” he said. “But if you really want to advertise yourself to Dan Adelson that badly…”

Rather than finish his sentence, I guess he decided to take his exit.

The police eventually came, and apprehended the surviving dealer. I made it a point to glamour myself and go into hiding, letting Jennifer and The Gael Army take all the credit for it. And to be honest, they deserved it. Cell phone mishap notwithstanding, they handled themselves a lot better than I was expecting, and were able to improv just fine when our cover was blown. Considering ole Starman was another little variable we hadn’t counted on, they could’ve done a lot worse.

The man was apprehended, and taken to jail (I assume). The rest of the girls were also taken down to the station, but compared to the survivor, it was more for testimony than for any counts of vigilante justice.

I was able to sneak my way past the officers as they put up the tape, and began their investigation. The next morning, the details would be made public to the masses. And it wasn’t till I saw the reports that I realized what just happened.

The Gael Army did get a couple mentions, but as far as the media was concerned, we were just bystanders. They made it sound like we’d shown up too late, and tried to talk him out of killing all of them. It was annoying, but only slightly. Especially when it occurred to me right then and there that I had just come face to face with none other than The Blue Hood himself.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: My Thoughts

I ask you audience: what the fuck do you people see in Neil Stevenson? Because between this, and Seven Eves (heh, I see what you did there), I just don’t get it.
Recently, I joined a scifi book club. Yeah, I know, me being social. The end of days may be upon us pretty soon. Although I think The Kansas City Chiefs have to win the superbowl before it’s TRULY official. Whatever.
The scifi bookclub I joined chose The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. as their book of the month to read. Considering I’ve been spending the last couple of months alternating between Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland (a book series about dragons that I can’t decide on whether or not I might be a little too old for), The Demon Accord by John Conroe (a series of books I honestly liked a lot better when it was called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter), and the occasional Yahtzee Croshaw book, I probably needed a change of pace. It’s just too bad that it had to be this near-800 page brick of a dud.I was willing to give Stevenson the benefit of a doubt. I couldn’t see my way past the first part of Seven Eves when I picked it up, but I still can’t decide if it was because of the story itself, or if it was because Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice really annoyed me. She has a weird accent that according to my memory, is very George Tekai.

But hey, sometimes, an author puts out a dud. I myself, in my infinite wisdom, felt like Homecoming: a Novella of Highfill, Kansas needed a sequel for reasons I can’t remember anymore, so yeah, even I’m capable of doing it. So maybe Seven Eves was just one dud in an otherwise steller catalogue.
If The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is anything to go on… Yeah, no. I’m officially in the minority. Hashtag-TJBHatesEverything and what not.
D.O.D.O. is a government organization built around the concept of time travel. For a lot of scifi guys, that right there is already a red flag. Time travel is one of those concepts that even GOOD authors struggle with. Add on the fact that Stevenson manages to include multiverse theory into time travel, and it becomes an even more tangled mess.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is read by at least ten different readers. And while I perked up when I heard Luke Motherfucking Daniels was one of them, the rest were a real mixed bag. Each reader reads from the perspective of one character, which is actually a really cool idea, and I really wish more audio books would do that. I’m not especially familiar with the other nine readers, though. I could tell you their names after looking up the book on Audible.com, but I couldn’t tell you who played who. Other than Luke Daniels, of course.
I will say, though, that whoever they got to voice Stokes was a SERIOUS miscast. Someone who is stranded in 1851 England with little to no hope of returning should NOT be this fucking perky. Everybody else in the recording, though, is passable at worst, and pretty damn good at best.
Then we get into the story. Oh god, the story.
Stevenson apparently decided to tell the story through a compilation of Stokes’ diary, government emails, memos, letters to the queen, transcripts of video conversations, and so on. It’s not especially obnoxious… Until you get to part 3, anyway. Then it becomes a serious fucking chore to get through.
The entirety of the book club can at least agree with me on the fact this was not a great idea. I personally believe they could’ve stuck with Stokes’ diary from 1851, and call it good.  It’d probably be three hundred pages shorter, but oh well. Length does not dictate quality of story. You’re talking to a guy who’s written books that barely hit the one-hundred page count.

I personally didn’t care for how the Stokes diary chapters basically announced what the chapter was going to be about.  I’ve literally seen titles for Dragon Ball Z episodes that left more to the imagination than this.

Some of the group think that Stokes was way too detailed in her descriptions, despite complaining constantly about hand cramps from writing with a quill pen, or shortage of ink or paper, and just that nobody could hope to remember the insane amount of detail put into each conversation. I see what they’re talking about, but honestly, that’s the one thing I personally could look past. Largely because by the time I’d gotten to parp 4, a fucking unicorn could’ve come through space and time, farted a rainbow, and blown up the Earth, and I still could’ve shrugged, said “whatever”, and used the book to squash cockroaches. If I had a copy of the print version, that is.
The story overall doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not really a story so much as it is a series of events. Someone in the group said it reminded them of someone writing a pilot to a TV show, and it’s not hard to see where he got that.

The concept of time travel in this series is heavily built around Schrodinger’s Cat.  IE, you can only travel through time and space when you somehow achieve a state of dead-alive.  if you can somehow convince the world you’re both dead and alive, you can convince the world you are both in the present, and…  Well, say, 1851.  That’s actually kind of a neat idea.

It’s just too bad we had to achieve the concept of time travel through WITCHCRAFT.

I have no problem with sorcery in my fiction.  Especially nowadays, where I’m a lot more open to the fantasy genre than I used to be.  It seems like they spend all this time talking about witches, and how they can do all this magic, but aside from turning an apple into an orange, or turning a can of white paint into a can of black paint in the beginning, the only thing the witchcraft is used for is time travel.  And maybe mind control towards the end.

The thing about time travel in this book that gets me, though, is that just because you accomplished this deed in the 1600s doesn’t mean it carries over to our specific present day.  Remember, I said this version of time travel includes multiverse theory ON TOP of past and present.  Meaning that the version of the past where you meddled probably isn’t the version of the past that’s on our timeline!  Meaning you have to go back in time at least FOUR OTHER TIMES if you want to accomplish what you want!  That, or create a disaster so catastrophic that the entirety of time and space has to go out of its way to rewrite more than one timeline in order to stay afloat.

Keeping that in mind, the only REAL way to change time is to basically burn down taverns, or murder super-important figures in time.  Otherwise, what’s even the point!?  It’s all an exercise in repetition.

But there in lies the theme.  The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is pretty much a 700+ page allegory on the mind-numbing repetitive nature, general incompatence, and bureaucratic nightmare of government.  Wow, a book that’s extremely critical of The United States government?  WOW!  Haven’t read that one before.  And in 2017 no less!  All we need now is a thinly disguised representation of Donald Trump, and we’ve hit the zenith of creativity that no one has ever thought of reaching!  *sigh*

Okay, let’s cool off.  I know I’m going to get hatemail up the wazoo from Stevenson fans no matter what I have to say (I hear he has a cult following), but let’s cool down.

As much shit as I give this book, I DID manage to see it to the end.  More than I can say for Seven Eves, that’s for sure.  The book was tedious enough to annoy me frequently, and make me consider putting it down to read something I actually WANT to read.  On the other hand, the premise was actually intriguing enough to where I actually wanted to see where it was going.  There was a good story in this near 800 page brick somewhere.  I just wish someone up in editing had taken out the chainsaw and made the effort to hack away the driftwood to get there.

Will Save the Galaxy for Food: My Thoughts

Yahtzee Croshaw.  Now there’s a mouthful of a name if I ever heard one.  Croshaw is well known for several things: a couple other books I haven’t gotten to yet, a series of adventure games made with one of those Game Maker esque programs I’ve really been meaning to pick up, and perhaps the thing that sealed the deal and made me a fan for good, his game review series.

Zero Punctuation has become one of my favorite things to watch on YouTube lately.  Considering Youtube is on the verge of censoring itself into oblivion (apparently), it probably won’t be there much longer, but for now, I’m enjoying the trip.  Admittedly, if you don’t like the color yellow, you’re probably not going to like this show.  There’s a lot of yellow in the background.  But even if that’s a turn off, I’ve found looking away from the screen and focusing primarily on the audio works just as well.  I’m not a very vision-oriented person, though, so maybe that’s just me.  And maybe you like yellow, which in that case, go ahead and look at the screen.  Look to your heart’s content!

Semi-related note: did you know there’s an honest to god phobia of the color yellow?  I forget what it’s called, and I’m not exactly in any hurry to Google it, but yeah, that’s a thing.  Go figure.

While marathoning some Zero Punctuation one night, I saw at the end of one of his videos that he’d apparently written a book.  At the time, I didn’t know he was an author with two other books in the can prior to this one, so you’ll forgive me if I’m going in reverse order.  It’s like the Star Wars trilogy all over again.  The good one.  Not the prequel one, or the J.J. one we’re working on right now.

Fortunately, the books are unrelated.  Say for maybe a reference to his book, Jam, I read through Will Save the Galaxy for Food, and didn’t feel like I had to backtrack.  True, I’m GOING TO backtrack, but it’s because I want to, not because I have to.

I love these kind of space epics.  The Expanse is fun if you want hardcore science fiction in the real world…  Or about as close to the real world as you can possibly get.  However, I’ve always found my favorite scifi was the kind of scifi that threw up its hands and said “fuck it”.  Is there such a planet as the one he takes people on a tour of in chapter 1?  Fuck if I know.  We did discover a whole other solar system a couple months ago with three planets that could hypothetically support life and all, but man, I don’t fucking care.  We’re never going to see those planets.  Between the fact that, last I checked, a science-denying hypocrite by the name of Ted Cruz has a pretty high-ranking position in NASA, and the fact it takes literally for fucking ever to get there with the technology we have, it’s not happening in MY lifetime for sure.  So just give me a fucking fantasy to hold on to.

The book gives me flashbacks to the various Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, what with its mostly well-flushed-out environments, great characters (even the obnoxious one-percenter teenager and his pink-haired girlfriend have their charm), and dry British humor.  Although instead of a nifty device that was a laptop in the 1970s, a cell phone in 2001, and god only knows what it’ll be if they ever give us another Hitchhiker’s Guide thing in the present day, we have the captain of the S.S. God of Whalesharks.

The audio book is read by the author himself, Yahtzee Croshaw.  I have to admit, it’s weird hearing him read in a slow, reserved sort of way.  I guess I’m too used to his million miles a second ramblefest style from Zero Punctuation.  All the same, I love his performance.  No two characters sound exactly the same, and I imagine the captain himself with Croshaw’s normal voice.

It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two other books to get caught up on.

 

Book 3 Under Way!

Technically, I began work on book 3 of The Gael Saga yesterday, but I’m only just now getting around to announcing it here on the blog.  Never the less, here’s some details to keep in mind.

Book 3’s current working title is The Hood and The Heroine.  On one hand, don’t expect that title to stick.  On the other hand, don’t be surprised if, despite my recommendation, the title ends up sticking.

I have a bit of a habit of coming up with a working title, looking over my completed manuscript, and deciding that in the end, the working title is good enough to stay.  Lifers Wear Orange was originally a placeholder title till I came up with something better.  I was reluctant to keep the title at first, because it sounded too much like Orange is the New Black: a pretty good autobiographical book about what it was like to spend a year in a women’s prison that eventually got adapted into a Netflix show I gave up on the very moment I saw the “I miss the misery” angle coming down the hall.  After some time, though, it ended up sticking.

Some of the titles I have for book 3 are as follows:

 

A. The Hood and the Heroine.

B. The Diamond Club.

C. The Gael Army.

D. Diamond is Forever.

E. The War of Five Kings.

 

SPOILER: The Diamond Club is a new faction that’ll be making its debut in book 3 of The Gael Saga .  The Gael Army was introduced in book 2, but will ultimately play more of a role in book 3.  Apparently, here in the notepad in my head, Diamond is Forever is a sort of catchphrase the leader of The Diamond Club has for herself, but I’ve already dismissed this as a title.  Frankly, I’m thinking of not using that, period.

Naming the book after either The Diamond Club, or The Gael Army seems like the wrong way to go.  I like The Hood and the Heroine thus far, because a large portion of the book deals with the interactions/fights between Gael and The Blue Hood.  Also, while The War of Five Kings is based on a quote Dan Adelson makes in his first chapter, I have a feeling George R. R. Martin is probably going to sue me over it.  Though none of HIS books are called that, that’s ultimately what the war throughout A Song of Ice and Fire is called.  I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking too hard about all that.  I’ve only got about a chapter and a half down as of this blog post, so it’s possible I won’t use ANY of these titles.

I look forward to getting this book done with.  I was originally planning on ending this series on book 3…  Although at the time I’m writing this, I’m really liking the concepts going into The Diamond Club.  If I end up deciding on a book 4, try not to be too surprised.  Don’t count on it, but don’t be too surprised.

That’s all the news I really have for now.  Stay tuned for more TJB flavored goodness!

After months of writing, proofreading, waiting for cover art, getting distracted by Darkest` Dungeon, and still more proofreading, Book 2 of The Gael Saga (formerly known simply as Gael) is now available!

Roisin O’Malley: the masked vigilante known by many as Gael, has been arrested, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Dan Adelson, the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has SOMEHOW been cleared of all charges, and finds himself engaged in corporate warfare with the man who’d be his successor.  The police force, now reduced to a third of their original manpower thanks to Adelson’s previous efforts, find themselves barely capable of contending with an ever increasing crime rate, as well as a group of copycat vigilantes calling themselves The Gael Army.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, a masked killer has emerged, leaving a trail of dead bikers, gangsters, and even corporate assassins in his wake.  What will become of Sapphire City now that all out bedlam has broken out?  And what will happen to Roisin, now that she must spend the rest of her life in a cage with her arch enemy?

The Gael Saga has been one of my favorite things to write lately, and I’m really happy this one is FINALLY available for purchase.  Admittedly, this one didn’t come spilling out onto the page quite like book 1 did, but I’m still very proud of how this one turned out.

Fair warning: this book, like many in a series, operates under the assumption you’ve read book 1 first.  I’m not saying you’ll be lost, or confused, or anything if you decide to start here…  Although I do seem to be thinking it pretty loudly.  It seems idiotic that I have to say this out loud, but if my mom has proven anything, it’s that people have an uncanny habit of picking up a series right in the middle on the assumption you can start anywhere.  Believe me, the days of episodic tales are long over.  That’s just the way it is.

You can get your copies right here.

 

 

 

Christmas Present: Lifers Wear Orange Sample Chapter!

As the old song goes: “If I ain’t drunk, it ain’t Christmas.”  I guess it’s Christmas, because despite how much Baha’i god hates it, I got liquored up on Pie Hole (pecan pie flavored whiskey), and had me a merry-ass Christober.  Or whatever.  Yeah, I’m still wobbly, and my back aches just like it did in July.  Strangely, not as badly as it did in July.

After hanging out with my family, and playing a drunken game of Exploding Kittens with everybody (BTW, I highly recommend that game), I’m back, I’m at a bit of a roadblock in Darkest Dungeon (more to come on that), and The Chiefs don’t play for another hour or so, so I figured now would be the perfect time to give you little imps your Christmas present.

The wrapping paper comes off, and to your amazement/disappointment/perplexity, it’s the official sample chapter for Lifers Wear Orange!  ENJOY!

NOTE: Lifers Wear Orange’s speculated release date is some time in late January, or early February.  More on that as it gets to me.  I might also note that this version of the chapter is the second draft.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors or what not, try to keep in mind this is still being proofread.

 

 

 

LIFERS WEAR ORANGE: BOOK 2 OF GAEL

 

COPYRIGHT 2016 THOMAS J. BLACK

 

4: ROISIN

 

I arrived at Camelbrook penatentury the day after my trial. It was a step up from the county jail. At least, up until I got past the front offices. Once I was escorted into the prison proper… Well… It’s honestly very amazing how one side of the building can look so nice, and the rest of the building look like hell on Earth. And Earthcrafters don’t even believe in hell.

The floors were filthy, say for a fresh white line of paint that separated various bits of the facility from other parts. The guard, a large man with a bleach blonde mullet, handlebar moustache, and biceps the size of bowling balls, immediately assured me I wouldn’t have to worry about that line.

“That line only applies to inmates assigned to tempblock,” he told me. “You’re going into liferblock.”

He took me to an empty room, and handed me over to another guard. This one wasn’t nearly as tall, but she was just as bored with her job as Muscle Man over there was. She looked over her clipboard, then looked directly at me.

“Ro-ee-sin O’Malley?” she said, not sure how to pronounce my name.

“ROW-SHEEN,” I corrected, trying really hard to hide my annoyance at that point.

“Whatever,” she replied, apathetically. “Take it off.”

As I stripped, I could hear the sound of a rubber glove being pulled on. Her gloved hand searched my body from neck to arse, she asking me to “squat and cough” somewhere toward the end of it. When she was finally convinced I wasn’t smuggling anything in, she pulled off the glove, and threw it in the trash.

“You’re clean,” she said, apathetic as before. She walked over to a table, and pulled out a bundle of orange clothes. “Put these on.”

I did as I was told. Included in the bundle of clothing was a white sports bra, an orange sweater, orange sweatpants, and a white pair of panties so bulky that they could’ve easily been Y-fronts. The orange clothes smelled like they’d just come from the laundry, but somehow managed to look dirty despite it. She then handed me a pair of gray socks, then a pair of black crocks.

Campbell will escort you next door for your prison ID,” she explained, as bored as anything else. “Make any stupid faces, and it’ll count as a strike.”

Campbell, the man I’d called “muscle man” in my head, came into the room, and escorted me into the next place I needed to be. I stood in front of a blue wall, and a black man who had to be in his seventies at absolute youngest snapped my picture with some contraption attached to his computer. A few minutes later, I was handed a warm laminated card with my picture, my name (the accent mark over the second I in ROISIN missing), and the number 70259 printed underneath it.

“Orientation is down the hall,” the elderly man told me. “Campbell will escort you there.”

Campbell took me out of the room, and escorted me down the hall. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice a chubby little brunette mopping the floor up ahead. I guessed she was one of the inmates at first, considering she was wearing a jumpsuit with a number on the front and back. Strangely, though, her jumpsuit was powder blue.

“Stay in bounce, inmate,” Campbell warned.

“I’m on janitorial,” she replied.

“All the same,” said Campbell.

He must’ve noticed the look I was giving the inmate then, because I didn’t even have time to ask the question. “She’s a temp,” he explained. “Temps wear blue.   Lifers wear orange.”

“Ooph, a lifer,” said the inmate. “I do not envy you. No sir, I do not…”

“That’s enough, inmate,” said Campbell, a hint of warning in his tone.

He walked me past her, and eventually, after a couple turns this way and that, we arrived in what appeared to be an office. There was definitely a desk, a couple filing cabinets, a phone, a walky-talky, and a couple chairs. Behind the desk sat a man who looked like he was expecting me.

This new man was a black fella with a bald head, and a tan suit with a black tie. He was about the same height I was, but a lot pudgier. His face was clean shaven, but his suit looked like it could use a wash.

“Ah, Ms. O’Malley, I presume,” he greeted. His voice had a very thick Jamaican accent. Not what I was expecting, in all honesty. “Welcome to your new home. My name is Jeremy Young, and I will be the one looking after you from now on.”

“Uh… Okay,” was all I could say.

“Normally,” he continued, “we hold orientation in the movie room, but since you’re the only new inmate we’ve had in three months, I might as well just tell you everything you need to know here. Saves me a trip.”

He picked up a couple papers from his desk, and began to read their contents out loud.

“You are here because you’ve broken the law,” he said, mechanically and hurredly. “You are now, and until the end of your sentence, state property. You will do everything the guards tell you to do. Failure to comply will result in a strike. Three strikes will result in you spending any amount of time we see fit in solitary. Depending on the severity of your offense, you might not even receive strikes prior to confinement in solitary. Consecutive solitary confinements, or the severity of the offense that results in said solitary confinements will result in you being transferred to a medium, maximum, or even a supermaximum security facility if necessary. Good behavior, meanwhile, will result in privileges ranging from longer phone calls, specialty items, and any other privileges we deem worthy of your behavior. You will be sharing living space with many other women. Yes, some of them are lesbians. No, you will not be forced into having lesbian sex with any of…”

He paused then, looking over his paperwork. It was then that I realized he actually wasn’t reading from a paper, but reciting this whole routine from memory! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little impressed, although I immediately figured it was because he’d done this so many times before I came here. I wasn’t sure what was on his paperwork until he spoke up again.

“Oh dear,” he said. “You appear to be rooming with her.”

“Who’s her?” I asked.

“You’ll meet her soon enough,” he told me. “We’ll be checking her for forks or knives, but you may want to be on your best behavior around her just in case we missed something. She’s been a bit of a problem case.”

That really didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. He was in no hurry to tell me everything would be fine, either. Probably because he wasn’t obligated. Or maybe because it really wasn’t. Either way, he finished his speech, and before I knew it, we were on the move once again.

I was taken down a flight of stairs. There, I saw cell after cell along both walls. Most cells had two women in them, but occasionally, I’d see a cell with only one woman in it. I kept thinking for sure I was going to get crammed in there with the enormous black woman. Or maybe I’d end up with the Indian woman with the weird tattoo on her forehead (it wasn’t your usual red dot mark you usually see on Hindu women’s foreheads). Or maybe even the woman with the shoulder sling. It turned out neither of them were going to be my cellmate.

He took me down to the very end of the hall. Another guard, an equally large man with a black buzzcut, took one look at me, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a massive ring of keys, and after a moment or two of looking through them all, he found the one he was looking for, used it to unlock the barred door, and pulled the cell door aside.

Campbell moved me forward… And that’s when I saw who I’d be rooming with for the rest of my life. My eyes locked on to hers as she just sat there on the bottom bunk. She didn’t seem to recognize me right away, but I recognized her immediately. A horrified gasp escaped me as I backed up a step.

“Meet your new roomy,” said Campbell, oblivious… Or more likely, uninterested in my state of shock.

“Try not to stab this one, Mahoney,” said the other guard.

Campbell nudged me forward. Left with no options, I did as he instructed, and went into the cell. The other guard slammed the door, locked the lock, and went on his way. Campbell, meanwhile, peaked in through the bars.

“Dinner’s at eighteen-hundred hours,” he told me. “In the meantime, I suggest you two get to know each other a little better.”

I didn’t have to get acquainted with her a little better: we’d already met a couple weeks ago back at Ron Swanson National Park. I wasn’t sure what her real name was, although I remembered that other guard called her Mahoney. But I knew what she went by. And now, I was locked in a cell with her. Badb: the woman who tried to kill me in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who tried to hit on me while I was in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who stabbed me in the arse in my Gael persona. Oh yeah, we were acquainted.

Or that’s what I thought, anyway. She was still looking me over when the guard left, but after a couple moments of incredibly uncomfortable silence, she went back to staring at her shoes.

“Hi,” I greeted anxiously.

“Hey,” she replied, apathetically.

I slowly, cautiously took a seat next to her on the bottom bunk. Seeing how she was way more interested in her feet than me, I took in the scenery. Or lack there of. The floor of the cell was the same greenish-gray as the rest of the prison, and the walls were the same dull grayish color. The only things in our cell were the bunk bed we were sitting on, and a toilet off in the corner. A week ago, that probably would’ve revolted me, but now, having been left with no alternative to watching four other women take turns on the bog, it wasn’t so shocking. At least this one had paper.

“So,” said Badb. Or I guess she was Mahoney now. “What’s your name?”

I cleared my throat. “Roisin,” I said.

There was a moment of silence between us as I feared that’d be what she needed to put two and two together. Once again, she didn’t seem to figure anything out.

“Roisin what?” she asked.

“Roison O’Malley,” I answered.

Again I feared, and again, she didn’t figure it out.

“Barbara Mahoney,” she said. “Call me Mahoney. Girls who don’t have nicknames around here generally go by last names. From what I’ve observed, they only go by first names if they both have the same last name, and nothing about them deserves a nickname.”

“Oh. Okay. So… I should go by O’Malley then?”

“Pff, with an accent like that, you’re probably going to end up with something Irish as a nickname. Or maybe just Irish.”

There was more silence between us. Then…

“Okay, let’s get this much straight,” said Mahoney, immediately shifting from bored to authoritative. “I get the top bunk, you get the bottom. You keep your back to me when I’m on the shitter. When we’re out in the cafeteria, or in the showers, or the recreation room, you stay near me at all times.”

“Do I need to put my finger in your belt loop?” I asked.

“Nah, nothing like that. Unless you really want to.” She shot me a sly grin that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. “Good news is you don’t have to worry about dropping the soap around here. First off, because they give us body wash. Second, because women usually aren’t like that. You aren’t interested, they’ll take the hint. Eventually.”

“Um, okay. What’s the bad news, then?”

“Other than a few of these women are really persuasive on top of being lonely, horny, and decided to be gay for the stay? Not much. Either way, if one of them decides not to take the hint, you tell me, and I’ll make sure they get the hint. Trust me, they’ll take the hint then. The two or three who won’t got stuffed in the box yesterday, and word has it they aren’t coming back, so…”

“The box?”

“Solitary. You get three strikes, and…”

“Oh, okay, I know what that is. The Jamaican guy explained that part.”

“Oh. Right. Well anyway, the point of all this is if you don’t want to get into a fight, or you don’t want someone trying to flirt with you, you stick with me, got it?”

“Got it.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. This seemed to be the pattern we’d established: long silences, and short question and answer sessions in between.

“So,” I asked, carefully, “What are you in for?”

Babs snorted. “Where do I start?” she replied. “Well, I guess trying to stab someone to death a couple weeks ago was what got me here. Really, though, this isn’t even my first time in prison. But it’ll definitely be the last.”

“What got you here the first time?”

“I wasn’t here the first time I went to prison. Technically, I’d gone to juvi the first time. Spent most of my high school years in juvi.”

“Oh. Uh, for what?”

She shot me a dirty look then. “Never you mind.”

“Well… Uh… I mean, we’re going to be here for life, and…”

“And how is knowing what I went to juvi for going to benefit you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Exactly. Never mind how we got here, because you’re here, and you’re never getting out.” She stood up then, and jumped up to the top bunk. “I’m taking a nap. A little hint: nap frequently. It helps pass the time when you’re in the cell.”

I didn’t say anything. What would be the point? Mahoney was pretty sure that was the end of the conversation, and there was no changing her mind.

I flopped down on my own bed underneath hers, and tried to take her advice. I don’t know if it was nerves, or just not being all that shattered, but I just couldn’t go to sleep. I was very thankful she didn’t realize Roisin O’Malley and Gael were the same person, but I had a feeling there was a lot more to worry about in here than that. I was not looking forward to my time here, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been all in vein.

 

 

 

 

 

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: My Thoughts

I love David Wong.  Admittedly, I wasn’t around for PWOT, and I don’t really follow Cracked all that much (I’m also guessing WISECRACKED is a completely different entity), but his books have entertained me over the many…  Four years.  I found out he existed around the time his second book, This Book is Full of Spiders, was new.  I ended up enjoying the shit out of it, and even picked up the legendary John Dies at the End right after I finished that one.

Apparently, I was significantly late to the party when it comes to his third book, but hey, the important thing is I got to it.  Eventually.  A year later.  STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Unlike his previous novels, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits doesn’t follow the demon hunting shinanigans of David and John.  Instead, it follows the story of Zoey: trailer trash turned millionaire.  And for the record, my spellchecker is thoroughly bitching me out over the spelling of the name ZOEY, but according to the page on Audible.com, I’m spelling it right.  So fuck you, spellchecker.  ALWAYS NAY-SAYING!  Dick.

The audio book is read by Christy Romano, and she is absolutely perfect.  She’s got a wide range of voices, her reading style never gets tedious, and her timing is on the mark.  I enjoyed this performance very much.  Which is good, because this book is a wee bit tedious in spots.So…  Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before, but a fat girl from the trailer park suddenly becomes an ultra-billionaire upon her father’s passing, and inherits a mansion the size of a small town.  She also finds herself in a town where there are no laws, no regulations, and no cops.  A libertarian dream come true…  Right up until you get to the part where everybody’s AWARE of the fact there’s no rules and regulations, and ultimately turn the city into a personal playground for killers, a safe haven for every illegal substance on the planet, and the battleground between the team of Zoey and “The Fancy Suits”, and one of the most psychotic people I’ve seen in fiction in quite a while.  I’ve literally seen Dragon Ball Z villains with more subtlety to them than the villain of this book…  But I guess when you don’t have to hide in the shadows, and your entire self worth is based on how many Twitter followers…  Excuse me, BLINKER followers you have, there’s probably no point in being subtle, is there?

I’ll give Wong this much: the world he’s built is fascinating.  There’s plenty of detail that has me thinking someone’s on the verge of writing a wiki.  Hell, if there’s more than one book in the series, that just might happen.  They made a wiki for Punch Out of all things, so why not?

While I know it’s played up for laughs, I actually don’t have a difficult time believing people would sooner switch on their blinker cameras on their glasses and stream a murder happening right in front of them in the name of subscribers than…  You know, actually helping the victim?  Or even running away in terror, for that matter.  The idea of a futuristic anarchy zone like Tabula Ra$a (I’m guessing on that spelling based on the few hints the audio book has given me) reminds me of similar settings I’ve encountered over the years.  It’s like a more futuristic Nightside, or a less demonic Midian.  But while the core concept sounds has a bit of a “SIMPSONS DID IT!” vibe to it, The city as a whole is original enough to where you don’t even think about it when you’re reading it.

If I have one problem with the book, it’s how Wong milks the suspense for everything it’s worth.  I go into this book knowing full well Zoey’s not a fighter.  She has no cybernetic parts like the villains, she has no martial arts training…  Hell, her only real skill is that she gives really good “massages”.  I went in knowing she was going to get taken hostage at least once.  I’m also aware the villain of the book is a bit of a drama queen, as is everyone in this universe.  I just wish the attempt at building suspense and tention didn’t go on FOR FUCKING EVER!

Look, I can appreciate good banter between hero and villain.  A villainous monologue can be pretty epic, and the hero’s moment of pure helplessness can be pretty intense when done right.  But man, I wish the punchline would hurry up and get here.  It’s one thing to know in your heart of hearts that the bad guys aren’t going to succeed in burying someone alive, and it’s another thing for it to drag on, and on, and on, and on.  All the while, you already know the punchline is coming, which ultimately kills the attempt at suspense dead.  Admittedly, I didn’t see the EXACT punchline coming, but I knew something was going to come along and save the day.

And it wouldn’t be an especially big problem if it didn’t happen over and over and over again.  By the time it got to the final battle, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency.  Hell, despite Romano’s performance, I actually wanted to hit fast forward just to get to the god damn punchline already!

The book is a whopping seventy chapters long, but much like Nax Barry’s Jennifer Government, it becomes significantly less intimidating when you realize the chapters are ridiculously short.  Half the time, chapters end in the middle of conversations, and the next chapter picks up right where the conversation left off!  I wouldn’t say it’s annoying, but it does make me wonder out loud why the author went that route.

These complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this story.  Admittedly, not as much as the David and John stories, but if Wong writes a sequel to this novel, I might consider giving it a read.